Heading into their pivotal game five matchup in Pittsburgh Penguins on Monday night, any Islander fan would have been hard-pressed not to think about exactly which memorable day it was in team history and not feel good.
41 years ago Monday marked the beginning of the Isles’ dynasty when Bob Nystrom scored at 7:11 of overtime to win the franchise the first of its four consecutive Stanley Cups.
Nystrom, the first unsung hero of the dynasty, became a legend that day.
So, it was only fitting that the Islanders needed overtime — sorry double overtime — t0 come away victorious in Pittsburgh and take a 3-2 series lead back to Nassau Coliseum Wednesday night with a chance to advance to the second round for the third time in three years. And wouldn’t you know it, the Isles’ current version of Nystrom — Josh Bailey — was the one to seal the deal.
Bailey’s goal 51 seconds into the second overtime off a gaffe from Penguins goalie Tristan Jarry gave the Isles a 3-2 comeback win.
“At first I was just trying to settle it down and get a good shot off,” Bailey told the media after the game. “I ultimately ran out of time and tried to let one go. Happy to see it go in.”
— Rob Taub (@RTaub_) May 25, 2021
The goal won’t go down as the prettiest in the history of overtime winners for the franchise, but it’s another moment that only adds to just how much Bailey has meant to the franchise. I mean who else has a song dubbed in their honor by the fans and it sung at games, even if head coach Barry Trotz wasn’t aware of it? That still makes for a good chuckle.
But in all seriousness, Bailey’s place on the team has transformed over the 13 years he’s been in the organization. And as time has passed, the 31-year-old’s proven to come through when the time calls for it the most.
Two years ago, Bailey’s OT tally in game one against these same Pens marked the beginning of a four-game sweep for the Isles. Last summer in the bubble he was the club’s best forward in their run to the Conference finals. In these playoffs thus far, Bailey has scored three goals — two of them now being game-winners; Bailey opened the scoring on Saturday afternoon in game three which led to a 4-1 Isles victory. His winner Monday night definitely added to his esteemed status as the longest-tenured member of the organization.
“It feels good, Bailey added in the postgame. “We’re all just focused on the task at hand. And so it doesn’t matter who gets the goals. We’re all excited. A win is a win.”
Bailey is now just the fourth player in franchise history to have two overtime goals in the playoffs. The leader of that group? Nystrom with four.
One would only think Bailey will join Nystrom and that elite company one day in the rafters at UBS Arena. Winning a Stanley Cup would all but guarantee it. That’s been the goal for Bailey and his teammates coming into this season.
On the way there though, Bailey continues to be the personification of clutch. If the Isles end up closing the series out on Wednesday, it will be his goal last night that was a major turning point.
Islanders fans can now look at the date of May 24th not just as the day the dynasty commenced, but as the night Josh Bailey’s legend among the franchise reached another level.
Now, would someone hit the song?
Follow Rob on Twitter at @RTaub_